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Ask Slashdot: Companies That Force Employees To Join Social Networks? 364

Posted by samzenpus
from the have-your-friends-list-on-my-desk-by-close-of-business dept.
First time accepted submitter rubeon writes "Companies can get a lot of mileage out of social networking services from the likes of Google or Facebook. Chat, document collaboration, and video conferencing using services like Google+ Hangouts or Facebook's Skype are seductive additions to an IT arsenal. But a lot of people have privacy concerns about these services, and there's no shortage of horror stories how these sites track and exploit their users' habits. Would you work for a company that forced its employees to join a social network?"
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Ask Slashdot: Companies That Force Employees To Join Social Networks?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:47PM (#39095781)
    Create a @ Work account, simple This also means you can easily avoid problems such as this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16338040 [bbc.co.uk]
    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:56PM (#39095863) Homepage Journal
      Yes, that. Sign up with a new account and compartmentalize your activities appropriately.

      In other words, make your profile private and add only the co-workers that you have to. Discuss only work-related activities. If a co-worker mouths off about the party last night or tries to message you about stuff unrelated to work, don't respond to them online and walk to their cube with a "don't be a dumbass" warning.

      Most importantly, if the above are not already rules in place, then ask that they be made rules. You can say it's for "security" reasons and they'll eat it right up.

      However, I don't have to worry about any of that because I don't social network in private, I don't work for a company with such asinine policies, and I don't do any hanging out with coworkers after work(other than the occasional post-work happy hour with a 2-drink cutoff).
      • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:11PM (#39095969) Homepage Journal

        Sign up with a new account and compartmentalize your activities appropriately.

        Unless a network enforces one account per individual.

        • by perpenso (1613749) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:38PM (#39096139)

          Sign up with a new account and compartmentalize your activities appropriately.

          Unless a network enforces one account per individual.

          With different emails, profiles, behaviors, etc how would they notice? Likes, interests, posts etc should be completely segregated between professional and personal. Maybe use different names as well, for example the formal Michael on the business account and the familiar Mike on the personal account. They can't really tell from IP. Maybe Michael is a father's account and Mike is a son's - again, avoid personal info like birthday's etc on the business account. A business account at a particular company has no need to contain birthdays, schools, etc.

          • Birthdays (Score:5, Interesting)

            by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Sunday February 19, 2012 @09:39PM (#39096449) Homepage Journal

            With different emails, profiles, behaviors, etc how would they notice?

            For one thing, correlations between people tagged in the same photo.

            avoid personal info like birthday's etc on the business account.

            As I understand it, all major social networks operating in the United States collect date of birth to be COPPA compliant.

        • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:41PM (#39096145) Journal
          Which network does that and how do they enforce it?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2012 @09:11PM (#39096299)

          Sign up with a new account and compartmentalize your activities appropriately.

          Unless a network enforces one account per individual.

          Use your work email address to sign up for the work account.

          Use your work address for contact information. It is a business related account after all.

          Don't fill out any personal data fields you don't need to. (Education, Hobbies, Interests, etc)

        • by sjames (1099) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @09:40PM (#39096453) Homepage

          Tell them you have dissociative identity disorder and if they won't respect that, all of you will file a class action lawsuit.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Yes, that. Sign up with a new account and compartmentalize your activities appropriately.

        Remember when information compartmentalization was the concern of 3 letter agencies and not part of the everyday life of the average citizen?

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          Remember when information compartmentalization was the concern of 3 letter agencies and not part of the everyday life of the average citizen?

          So was encryption. Of all things, this is the least deserving of complaining about.

        • by Belial6 (794905) on Monday February 20, 2012 @12:32AM (#39097145)
          No, I don't. As long as I've been sexually active, I have compartmentalized information. Among other things, the women I sleep with get to know exactly how I like my balls licked. My mother does not.

          I guess some of use are just not as close to our mothers as others.
          • by tsa (15680)

            I don't think my mother has ever licked my balls, even when I was a baby. But you never know, do you?

    • by einhverfr (238914)

      Also, I try to use social networking really with three categories of activities in mind:

      1) Self-promotion: This stuff always goes on the social networking media. That';s what the media is there for!

      2) Public thoughts: This is sort of like a mini-blog service. Things can go there if audience-appropriate.

      3) Private activities and thoughts: No way in hell am I putting those on a social networking site!

    • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:41PM (#39096151) Journal
      Good idea, but to nitpick many of these services are now insisting on your real name and details when you sign up. Yes, you can put fake details on, but try explaining it to the boss when your account is deleted for breaking the T&C. I use a fake Facebook account for work purposes, but I'm self employed so I can't get fired if it gets taken down, I just make another. If my employer insisted on me handing over my personal data to a third party I'd simply refuse outside of work bio, email and phone number. Facebook and the like collect a LOT more data than that, including people contacting me on non-work matters - you can tell them not to because it's your work account, but your employer (in the UK at least) isn't allowed to view incoming messages like that, let alone a third party (court orders aside).
    • Also put a lot of stuff in writing. Like if they are forcing you to join with your personal account, get in writing that it is your account, and will still be yours when you leave. That you have friends that may post to your wall that you are not expected to control. That you participate in activities outside of work that may or may not fit with the company image, and you will not be asked to curtail those activities. This may scare them off a bit...
  • by icebike (68054) * on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:48PM (#39095795)

    Other than Facebook itself, and Google, has anyone actually been asked to join a Social Network by their employer?

    (No, Gmail does not count).

    I've heard of people being asked to follow twitter, but that's hardly a social network, and its far from bidirectional.

    • by kiwimate (458274)

      Agreed...this question.

      The submission starts off with the vague "Companies can..." and then makes a couple of similarly tenuous suppositions-masquerading-as-fact. No linked article linked about how this is a growing trend, or even a blog post from someone rampaging that their employer has just instituted this.

      Slow news day, I guess?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:14PM (#39095991)

      Yes. Part of the interview process at my last job (internet marketing startup) was to check prospects' scores on online tools that measured "engagement" in blogging, Twitter, Facebook, foursquare, Google+, YouTube, etc. The company would also send out emails "requesting" that employees post/Tweet/Like events, books, blog posts, awards, or webinars related to the company, made by friends of/investors in the company, and so on. If you didn't have social media "juice," they weren't interested.

      Even for tech support positions they weighed social media marketing knowledge alongside tech knowledge, because you had to defend (or upsell) the product on support calls. It's to the point now where they changed the job title of the phone support position to "Entry-level *ub*potter," presumably because they weren't getting people with marketing knowledge.

      They'd ask us to mob people they wanted as guests on their weekly marketing show. I don't know what they expect when they do that; it struck me as annoying [twylah.com].

      They're also extremely aggressive about responding to negative or skeptical posts and comments, to the point where they'll join MetaFilter [metafilter.com] to post a sales-pitch response [metafilter.com] to a question.

    • Yes. But since it's one based on a product that we sell (not a public facing one), I have no issue with it.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      Depends what you define as a social network I suppose, and in general the question applies to any online service. Do you want to count skype as a social network?

      And I suppose the same applies to any online service you need to sign up for as part of your employment. You use your employee information as the basis for it, and you make sure your employer clearly understands they are the ones liable since this is part of your work duties and anything that happens to you, your account, or anything done on the

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:49PM (#39096191)

      Other than Facebook itself, and Google, has anyone actually been asked to join a Social Network by their employer?

      My employer - a university department - decided it needed to have a social networking presence. Since I'm the main web guy, that basically amounted to "we want you to join Facebook and Twitter".

      We use it these tools to disseminate news about our department and to try to keep more frequent contact with our alumni. But that's as far as it goes - as far as I know, they couldn't care less about my personal activities on there (and my personal Facebook profile is actually separate from I use for work; but don't tell Facebook that! And I don't use Twitter personally). I've made it a point to not "friend" my boss nor most of the faculty who've asked. My (infrequent) personal posts are all set to "friends only"; and I do my bet not to say anything that could come back to bite me.

      Of course it helps that I'm a really boring person.

  • It's a paying job. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:49PM (#39095809) Homepage

    If I were looking for work, I'd take the job, and just add the bare minimum of details to the site. Get a bit of political clout with the supervisors, then conveniently forget to log in for a week, or a month, or "oh dear, I forgot my password, and I don't know what email account I used to sign up".

    Having been unemployed recently, I'd much prefer a paycheck to a bit of already-compromised privacy.

    • by JamesP (688957) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:55PM (#39095851)

      Obviously

      You choose the amount of information you put there.

      Unless you are as paranoid as RMS, just sign up using your company email (or a throwaway one) and put the absolutely minimum amount of info.

      I'd much prefer a paycheck to a bit of already-compromised privacy.

      This

    • by pavon (30274) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:00PM (#39095901)

      I don't use social networks, so don't know a lot of their details. But one complaint that I commonly hear is that people can tag photos of you, and even if you don't have an account, Facebook will link this information together to create a hidden profile of you.

      If your employer requires you to use your real name and information when signing up for an external social network, and your friends who use that same social network post pictures and other information about your personal life, is it possible that the network will associate this information with your work account, which will then bring it into your bosses radar?

      If it is a private company network, then no problem. But if it is a public social network, it seems like it could create the same sort of problems that occur when bosses force you to friend them with your personal social network account.

      • I wouldn't friend them. I'd be like "Oh, I never got your request..."
      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        You raise a very good point, but it should be fairly straightforward to work around it. Arrange with your employer to let you use a different middle name, for all professional social network purposes. Either use the alias or don't include a middle name or initial on business cards, email signatures, or the like. It fulfills their need to have a real person visible for the company, and it helps your need for privacy. It's a win-win, that most likely wasn't considered when the manager wrote the "must use real

  • Just introduced here - no-one seems to be 'forcing' us rank-and-file to use it though. I imagine it will disappear in a year or two, as soon as the people who's bright idea it was to introduce it get another bright idea...
  • Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmitchel!jmitchel.co (254506) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:51PM (#39095825)
    Why would I have any problem working for a company that forced me to join a social network? I wouldn't join with the same profile that I used personally. I would keep my business activities with the site strictly segregated from my personal persona (if any). But if the cost of losing your privacy as an employee to a google or a Facebook accrues almost entirely to your employer, not to you.
    • I wouldn't join with the same profile that I used personally.

      Exactly. My work email address is different from my personal one, and likewise for social networks. The profile set up by my employer is used for work purposes only - it's got nothing to do with my personal life.

    • Re:Why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:07PM (#39095937) Homepage Journal

      Why would I have any problem working for a company that forced me to join a social network?

      You might not, but some people have privacy hang-ups about them.

      Especially since this sounds like a prospective employer, I'd tell the submitter to get a grip. Don't go work for a company that has fundamentally different morals or ethics than you do - that's going to end in disaster.

      I wouldn't join with the same profile that I used personally.

      The seems to be a current trend, but employers are going to have to get a grip too, Their employees use drugs, have sex, and shoot guns on the weekend (ideally not all at the same time). To pretend otherwise is fantasy and the stock of employees who will pretend that way is going to dry up over time.

      Associate with people who like you for who you are and not who you pretend to be and your life will become more pleasant.

      • True. And also true that I don't do or say anything much that would be substantially offensive. But keeping my private life apart from my work life is something that I do value. And even if I didn't value it, the problem isn't nearly so much the employer as the employer's customers. I've quite deliberately not friended even my friends at work, because that's a social network that could easily expand to a lot of people in front of whom I have an obligation to behave with a modicum of professionalism.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:52PM (#39095831)

    Maybe they can make it a condition of your job to join, but can they really make you use it? Just telling them that you don't post much because you're not that kind of guy or gal would be a hard argument for them to refute.

    • by Bradmont (513167)
      Seriously. And just install ghostery to avoid the tracking cookies. Or use a separate browser for company mandated social networking.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Why would any company require this? There are already companies trying to get workers to stop using Facebook all day long.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:52PM (#39095837) Journal

    There are so many things an employee can screw up online, I though most of the corporate and government employers would prefer you not be on a social network.

    As for the question - who cares? Business accounts are business accounts. You can blog and facebook and plus all you want for the company with a company account. Just to let your business and personal life (accounts) mix. What's so hard about that?

  • by Technomancer (51963) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:53PM (#39095841)

    sign up for any other online service like video conferencing etc.
    Create account Company_X_employee_2843753875 and use it for work purposes ONLY. Nobody is forcing you to use it at home, do they?
    When you leave the company you give them the account and password so there is no BS like this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16338040

  • ... even if it means your "lack of faith" in those particular "social networks."

    After all, why can't all us "infidels" and "philistines" demand equal respect for our beliefs? Just because ours are based on the real world (and provable) doesn't mean that they are less deserving of respect than other people's fantasies.

    Or join- and to make it interesting, make the first one a suggestion about how the company really needs a better sexual harrassment policy.

    And make your second post about how you wonder

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      And the fourth post will be from management as to their regret in your choice to "seek opportunities elsewhere".

      Being a lying idiot is very obvious and gets you nowhere.

      • A competent community manager would delete the post and start with some gentle corrective action - maybe a polite note asking you to cut it out. Only after it becomes completely clear that you have no intention of cooperating will it be escalated to your manager. A competent manager would probably be able to figure out the appropriate carrot and stick that would make you toe the line.

        Of course, that's assuming a competently run company, and a competent community manager.

        I saw one hilarious example of this

  • by rueger (210566) * on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:57PM (#39095873) Homepage
    Seems obvious that your employer can require that - why not?

    Just make sure that you maintain a really clear separation between work data that put into this account and your private life and accounts.

    I'd opt for no linkages whatsoever between the two.

    I'd also ask specifically what happens to that account and the associated data if you leave the company. You'll want it to be nukeable when you go.
  • by JustShootMe (122551) <rmiller@duskglow.com> on Sunday February 19, 2012 @07:59PM (#39095885) Homepage Journal

    Disclaimer: I work for Jive Software, one of the leading vendors (if not the leading vendor) of Social Business Software, so take it for what you will. I'm just a hosting engineer though - not a marketer.

    That said, I think this question actually entails two separate issues. The first one is, will having their employees collaborate socially save them time, money, and energy? I've seen many, many examples of companies coming to depend on social software - there are plenty of examples on Jive's site (and it's not just blowing smoke, I've seen firsthand evidence of this and have even talked to some people on the sales floor who swear by it). Some customers I work with have grown so dependent on social software that they cannot tolerate even a minute of downtime. Social business is, in many ways, the wave of the future, and to criticize companies for trying to get on the bandwagon and realize the benefits for themselves is not something I'm prepared to do.

    The other question is: Should the company provide a sandboxed environment for this kind of collaboration, or should they force their employees to use solutions that potentially violate their privacy or have other issues? I'm not going to say that any of the solutions out there such as Facebook have those issues necessarily, but they are obviously very much less sandboxed and do not have the interests of corporate and personal privacy in mind near as much as a vendor whose software can be sandboxed to provide some safety for personal information and company secrets.

    At Jive we eat our own dogwood, and we use a social instance of our own software in the company, and I can't imagine working without it. But if a company were to force me to collaborate on publicly available sites where my grandmother (for example) would also post, I'd seriously wonder what they were smoking.

    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:51PM (#39096201)

      Some customers I work with have grown so dependent on social software that they cannot tolerate even a minute of downtime. Social business is, in many ways, the wave of the future, and to criticize companies for trying to get on the bandwagon and realize the benefits for themselves is not something I'm prepared to do.

      I think that corporate dependence on "social software" is kind of like dependence on crack: it's hard to go a minute without it but that's not because it's providing real benefits.

      Yes, in some cases social tools are useful, but in most implementations I've heard about the users become dependent on it because it's their only option, not because it was the best option.

      Another analogy: if the New York Fire Department switched from fire engines to wagons pulled by donkeys because other cities were doing it and donkey stock was through the roof, they'd use the donkeys all the time and dread donkey downtime, but that wouldn't indicate that donkeys were a better choice than engines.

      • I'm not sure I understand your point. If they're dependent on it to the point where work stops getting done of the social network is down, and when significant and concrete cost savings can be proven (again, look at the use cases, I'm not going to repeat them here - I'll repeat that I'm not a marketer) it would become very difficult to make the case that the network being used is not at the very least *adequate* for the needs of the company whom is using it.

        Some social networks and social software are better than others (I obviously have my opinions but I don't think I need to spell them out here as to which are which) but when a company is seeing tangible and measurable benefits trying to convince them that their solution is the wrong one is going to be an uphill battle.

  • by Tibixe (1138927) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:00PM (#39095899)
    I'm fairly young and I already start getting reactions along the line of "Are you a criminal or what?" when I tell people I don't have a facebook profile. Also, I'm pretty sure the police would be watching people without public social network presence for they are hiding something for sure. Fortunately for me, they're probably too lazy to get up from facebook.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "I'm fairly young and I already start getting reactions along the line of "Are you a criminal or what?" when I tell people I don't have a facebook profile."

      I just let them know Facebook is for noobs and I'm too leet to bother with that shit. Works very well.

  • Like in areas of what groups you are part of and other areas that a job can not ask you about.

    Now maybe linked in is ok as long as it stays professional and they don't want you to post / talk about lot's of non work stuff that falls under ares covered by discrimination laws.

  • One could just use the account for promoting the company or whatever they want you to use it for while leaving any personal stuff out of it. What would really worry me is not being hired because when they try to do some facebook based background check on me they come up with nothing and figure I must have "something to hide" because "everyone is on there" and only antisocial oddballs are not on facebook
  • Despite what Fox News might say, we're not a fascist, socialist country here in the United States and you still have the right to tell your employer to go fuck themselves and get another job. There's no monarch/dictator/cabal/regime telling you where you can and cannot work. An employer in the United States CANNOT force you to do anything that you don't want to do, because you can leave the company and get another job. The whole issue is ridiculous. Even if you did not want to quit, the state in which you
    • Re:What?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JustShootMe (122551) <rmiller@duskglow.com> on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:17PM (#39096003) Homepage Journal

      While you are technically correct, you are ignoring economic realities and pressures. Sometimes just because you *can* quit doesn't mean that you will be able to find another job. There are places in the country where if you lose your job, you will have to move.

    • I don't know why you're picking on FNC here, but socialism doesn't stop people from leaving their jobs. It discourages hiring and even prohibits firing, and there are plenty of regulations telling people where they can and cannot work.

      • Re:What?!?! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Kjella (173770) on Monday February 20, 2012 @06:43AM (#39098057) Homepage

        I don't know why you're picking on FNC here, but socialism doesn't stop people from leaving their jobs. It discourages hiring and even prohibits firing, and there are plenty of regulations telling people where they can and cannot work.

        Maybe if you go to a communist country like Cuba or North Korea, but not in any of the more civilized countries you call socialist like Europe. Yes, hiring an employee here in Norway is a much bigger commitment here than in the US, because normally you have a mutual one month termination period for the first six months and three months after that. Normally people work through that period rather than the two week check as I've understood is common in the US and most people find themselves new work in this period so it's not even remotely as hostile as the US. Regardless of that companies will often let you go earlier if you've left for one of their competitors, but this is a voluntary agreement both parties must agree to.

        Firing is far from prohibited but unlike the US you may not fire people for any or no reason. Essentially there are three ways to be terminated. The first is because the company has less work, is terminating stores or offices or restructuring that makes people redundant. Generally you can't hire with one hand and fire with the other, unless you've sacked them for work performance (I'll get to that) they generally have a preferred right to other open positions they're qualified for, if you're moving offices and that sort of thing. In short, downsizing is legal but it must be real.

        The second way to get terminated is for poor work performance, and I admit this is hard. Basically the key word is document, document, document. You must show that the work performance has been deemed unacceptable, that the person has been informed of this, that they've been given sufficient opportunity to improve themselves and so on. Most often it's smaller businesses that either don't do all the steps, or they have too excessive reactions because they can't afford the dead weight. Larger companies generally do manage to get it right, but due to the cost and termination period involved they generally avoid to.

        The third and final way is instant termination, which is pretty much like termination for cause in the US. Note that breaking internal rules is mostly not covered and would go under poor work performance, it is mostly criminal activity like theft, fraud or sabotage and willfully abusing or leaking confidential information, refusal to work and that sort of thing. If the facts of the case are unclear employees may end up suspended instead, which is not yet a termination.

        That said, there are a lot of anti-discrimination laws and people given special protection by law, like for example people on sick leave or maternity leave. It does happen, I know a person that was terminated on sick leave but the company was downsizing almost 50% and if an office is closing then obviously everyone lose their jobs, but under normal circumstances they're practically immune to termination. Basically as long as they're doing their job when they're fit to work, you're not permitted to fire them no matter how inconvenient the leaves are.

        Not sure what you mean about rules where people can get work, I can get work in pretty much any public or private job. A few require security clearances and a few require checking my criminal record e.g. to get work as a teacher, but for the most part every job is available to me. Of course all the usual caveats with who knows who and all that applies, but that's the same in any country. Oh and while we do have exempt workers, they're extremely few - any normal professional is still an employee with overtime pay. That cuts down on a lot of crap.

  • by ka9dgx (72702) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @09:23PM (#39096363) Homepage Journal

    I distance my work and personal stuff, but they wanted me to follow them, so I did.... no big loss. I've got sufficiently non-mainstream opinions on enough stuff that they really don't want me tying things tight anyway... what with my whole (9-11 was an inside job, Ron Paul for President, Cold Fusion really works, Back to the Gold Standard, we're in the Greater Depression) view of the world... it's non-corporate friendly (besides, corporations aren't people anyway).

    I'll patiently wait for JPM and the FED to implode while I read back issues of the stuff from the time monks for a very long time before anyone wants me to be their corporation's friend. ;-)

    Be sufficiently human, and only other humans will want to around.... and some will value you highly. Heck, one might even help you make other humans. ;-)

  • by SuperTechnoNerd (964528) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @09:58PM (#39096535)
    As long as they let me be Rumpelstiltskin.
  • by Sneeka2 (782894) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @10:00PM (#39096551)

    ...damned if you don't?

    So, first people complain that their employer is blocking or limiting their internet access because they spend too much time on Facebook, now they're complaining that they're forced to sign up for a Facebook account? Oh boy...

  • by frinkster (149158) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @10:21PM (#39096633)

    This exact topic recently came up at a local Inn of Court [innsofcourt.org], and after a bit of discussion, the consensus among the judges and attorneys present was that the company would be liable for all the stupid things the employee did with that social network account.

    There is a real reason companies typically have one single spokesman and many have a PR department.

  • by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:31AM (#39099111)
    Force me to sign up for a social network? Sure thing. That's way less invasive of my privacy than asking me to pee in a cup.

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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